White supremacist ideals of Ku Klux Klan still active in US: Historian

White supremacist ideals of Ku Klux Klan still active in US: Historian

‘The KKK is still active as an organization, though it's much diminished in strength and influence,’ says Sam Bock

By Gulcin Kazan Doger

ISTANBUL (AA) – The ideals of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), a notorious US white supremacist group dating back to the 1800s, remain active in the country, according to an American public historian.

“The KKK is still active as an organization, though it's much diminished in strength and influence. Its long history of public violence, discrimination and intimidation has made it highly visible in the US, and even for organized hate groups, it carries a bad reputation,” Sam Bock, an exhibit developer at the History Colorado historical society, told Anadolu.

“I think it's certainly safe to say that the Klan's white supremacist, anti-Semitic, Christian nationalist ideals are thriving in America today. Their modern forms are represented by groups like the Proud Boys and the many neo-Nazi and militia groups that are thriving online and in the real world all across America. Political figures like (former President) Donald Trump have emboldened these hate groups, and many are finding receptive audiences now that influential politicians have encouraged them to come out of the shadows,” Bock added.

The KKK and the ideals it embodies have absolutely had an influence on multiple US presidents, he noted.

“In fact, President Woodrow Wilson screened a movie made to promote the KKK's racist ideas (Birth of a Nation) at the White House in 1915. Other presidents have certainly held racist views over time, though few in recent memory have embraced the rhetoric and logic of white Christian nationalism in such a public manner as Donald Trump.”

Trump has often been accused of espousing racist ideas and policies, including trying to appeal to white supremacists, but he has consistently denied this.

Bock said the first of the three separate Klans that emerged at different times was active from 1865-1871 and the second from 1915-1944, pointing out that the second wave of Klans was not only more ruthless towards African Americans but also towards Jews, unionists, communists and all immigrants, including in the western state of Colorado.

“In Colorado, the second coming of the KKK in the 1920s won political power in places of great religious and ethnic diversity by sending the message to white Protestants that their place at the top of society was being threatened. Other Klaverns organized in different ways, but in Colorado, the KKK identified Catholics and those who violated Prohibition laws as a threat to the Anglo-Protestant ruling class and used those ideological wedge issues to gain influence.”

Bock said that despite the organization's dissolution twice in 1871 and 1944, it revived in the 1950s, and the third Klan was established.

“The KKK tends to rear its head in times of economic uncertainty and social change, and it was the social conditions of the 1950s and 60s that led to a resurgence of the Klan at that time.”

Touching on the History Colorado Center’s digitization of the Ku Klux Klan's membership records for the years 1924-1926, he said: “The KKK members listed in the membership ledgers at History Colorado reveal a wide cross-section of society. They were nearly all white middle and upper class Protestants living in Denver. Many were employed in trades, but nearly every profession was represented, from teachers and lawyers to politicians, bankers and laborers.”

Touching on the more than half a million signatures that were collected in the US calling for the hate group to be declared a terrorist group, he said the KKK has been thoroughly repudiated even though they still exist and recruit members, so the exercise of naming them a terrorist organization is probably both too late and ineffective.

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